Green Key and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals: SDG #13

Green Key is a leading standard of excellence in the field of sustainable tourism, guiding tourism establishments to do their part in achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals set by the UN. In our new feature series we will present each of the 17 SDGs and explain their connection to Green Key. 


In 2015, the UN member states adopted the 17 Sustainable Development Goals to guide governments, the private sector and civil society in transforming our world into safer, fairer and more livable place.   

Sustainability lies at the heart of Green Key, which is why the programme inherently contributes to all of the 17 goals. Today, we talk about Goal 13: "Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts".

According to the UN "Planetary warming continued in 2016, setting a new record of about 1.1 degrees Centigrade above the preindustrial period, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Statement on the State of the Global Climate in 2016. "

Tourism is one of the industries that is most sensitive to climate change as the tourist experience in most cases depends on steady climate conditions which for example guarantee snow for winter sports or pleasant weather at beach holiday destinations. In addition, the increase of extreme weather phenomena such as hurricanes might influence tourists decisions and travel patterns and will disadvantage the tourism industry in affected countries. On the other hand, tourism itself is contributing to climate change, mainly through greenhouse gas emissions generated through transportation. 

How does Green Key help to achieve Goal 13?

Green Key integrates climate change measures into its criteria to help tourism establishments lower their greenhouse gas emissions:

  • Awarded establishments are encouraged to measure their C02 footprint with Green Key's free carbon footprint tool (criterion 1.7)
  • All awarded establishments have to register their energy use at least once a month (criterion 7.1)
  • 75% of all light bulbs have to be energy efficient (criterion 7.3),
  • The use of energy-efficient electronic equipment and devices in the rooms (criteria 7.8, 7.13 & 7.17) and offices (7.27) is required. 
  • The tourism establishments have to maintain their electronic appliances on a regular basis to ensure energy efficient operation (criteria 7.4, 7.5, 7.6 & 7.14)
  • Electronic appliances are managed in an energy-efficient way, e.g. through automatic switch-offs or seasonal adjustments (criteria 7.2, 7.9, 7.10, 7.11, 7.18, 7.19, 7.20, 7.22, 7.26 & 7.28)
  • Proper insulation of the buildings and equipment reduces the energy consumption (criterion 7.7, 7.12, 7.24 & 7.25) 
  • Green Key awarded establishments are encouraged to use eco-certified or renewable energies (criterion 7.16)

Green Key also improves education and awareness-raising in regard to climate change among guests, staff and suppliers: 

  • Information about energy saving initiatives of the establishment must be available for guests (criterion 3.7) and they should be encouraged to participate in the initiatives (criterion 3.4)
  • The staff must be well-trained about the environmental initiatives of the awarded establishment (criteria 2.1 & 2.3)
  • Suppliers and third-party businesses are involved in the environmental initiatives of the awarded establishment and encouraged to operate in the spirit of Green Key (criteria 13.3 & 13.5) 

In addition, Green Key encourages the use of sustainable transportation:

  • The awarded establishment must be able to inform guests about local public transportation systems, shuttle bus or cycling/walking alternatives (criterion 3.6)
  • The establishment must also be able to inform guests about the nearest place to rent bikes (criterion 12.2) or offer rental bikes themselves (criterion 12.3)
  • It is recommended within the Green Key criteria to encourage the staff to use public transportation from and to the establishment (criterion 13.10)

A document describing Green Key’s overall contribution to all 17 Sustainable Development Goals can be downloaded here.